Cultural Revolution on the Border: Yunnan's 'Political Frontier Defence'


  • Michael Schoenhals Lund University



China, Politics, History, Yunnan


This paper addresses an important but so far neglected episode in the post-1949 history of China – the impact of the so-called 'Cultural Revolution' on the country's ethnic minority populations. Specifically, it attempts to deal with the movement as it unfolded in the province of Yunnan where, at one stage, it became an attempt by a political leadership in the provincial capital, dominated by military officers and supported by members of the central authorities in Beijing, to alter the landscape of the ethnic minority populations along the frontier. Using information culled from local histories and contemporary sources, the paper traces the history of what even by the standards of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) came to be regarded as an exceptionally flawed and counterproductive policy. It foregrounds the human cost of its implementation and, for the first time, goes some way towards explaining – in more than simply general terms of labels like 'excesses' and 'ultra-leftism' – the trauma of those who survived it, a trauma that to this day still lingers in popular memory.

Author Biography

Michael Schoenhals, Lund University

Director, Center for East and Southeast Asian Studies, Lund University and Associate Professor, Dept. of East Asian Languages